Yet Another Post About Roman Polanski

First of all, let’s get this part out of the way.  Any and all claims that Roman Polanski should not be extradited to face both sentencing for the 1978 statutory rape charge he pled guilty to and trial for fleeing to France to avoid that sentence are absurd and without merit, and serve to encourage rapists and support rape culture.  And no, that the victim has said she forgives him and doesn’t want the prosecution to continue does not settle the matter.

Second, see Scott Lemieux and C.L. Minou, respectively, on the currently popular (among establishment pundits and conservatives, that is) meme that liberals and the French are supporting Polanski.  It’s true that many people in professional circles that intersect with Polanski’s are demanding his release (though some are not), and some of those people are liberals, but their liberalism has nothing to do with their support of a child rapist: indeed, they’re supporting Polanski despite being liberals, because their loyalty to “one of us” trumps their political, philosophical, and moral beliefs (which I give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they have) that drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl is wrong.  In short, the idea that “free Roman!” is a liberal cause is a fiction, and its primary proponents are the people who have an interest in seeing liberalism delegitimized: right-wing bloggers and pundits, and mainstream Village types.

Third, expanding on some of what I said above, I think it’s interesting and possibly useful to examine why they’re supporting Polanski, because I think it reveals a number of important things about structural problems in our society.  To that end, I’m reproducing a couple of comments I left at Shakesville:

Damn Hollywood fools—what kind of hold does Roman Polanski have on you?

I’ve been thinking about this, and my theory is that the major components are the deeply internalized misogyny that comes with belonging to patriarchal societies (of course); reflexive defense of “one of us”; relatedly, the classist view that rapists are bad, low-class people, so by definition a charming, perhaps slightly debauched rake like Polanski couldn’t possibly be one of them; the common misconstruction of rape as being a kind of bad sex, which allows them to equate Polanski’s case with, say, Lawrence v. Texas; and a perverse kind of self-defense by which, rather than admit to the remotest possibility that they were wrong to hold Polanski in esteem as an artist and a person, they double down on their insistence that he’s the real victim here. This last was the piece that really made it click for me, when I remembered something Amanda wrote at Pandagon a good while back (though she was talking about climate change denialism):

Some people will get so defensive that they’ll actually double down to prove the nay-sayers wrong—they’ll marry that bad boyfriend or put more money into the bad investment. They will, rather than risk the chance that they might get proven wrong and open themselves to a chorus of “I told you sos”, will live in denial about their bad decisions until the last possible moment when it’s becoming clear that they cannot sustain this bad decision any longer.

You know, I think my theory a bit upthread left out something else that’s important. Probably another major component of the mental process that leads all these people — who no doubt think of themselves as good people! — to sign on in support of a fugitive child rapist is that they believe in what I’ve called the myth of the individual, or put another way, are bad (as are many people) at thinking systemically, seeing things as parts of systems. So (along with all the other parts) to them this is purely a matter of something one person did to another, a long time ago, which the one has suffered for (in some rather dubious sense of the word “suffer”) and the other has forgiven, and so that should be the end of it; they don’t, or can’t, or refuse to see that it’s an act which affects more than just Polanski and his victim.

I think a lot of these same elements — “one of us,” the idea that by definition only low-class, bad people can be rapists, the misconstruction of rape as sex, the unwillingness to admit to a mistaken judgment of character, and the mistaken idea that a crime (especially mistaken in the case of a hate crime like rape) is a matter solely between the victim and the perpetrator and has no external ramifications — can also be seen in another recent example of rape culture at work.

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